Monday, July 15, 2013

Annals of Random Reading: The Eight Shelves, Part Two.

In December, I chose one audiobook per shelf from a column of eight shelves at my local branch library.  Last Monday, I told you how things went with the first three books.  Now, the exciting conclusion!

#4 Strata, by Terry Pratchett, 1981 (read in February)  * * *
Variations on a theme by Douglas Adams. Cute.
Terry Pratchett writes in a genre of “funny science fiction” that I tend to find rather grating. I’ve got friends who are fans, and from the choices at hand I picked this book to give him another try at winning me over. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t really a win either.  And it really shares an awful lot of ideas and gags with the planet-factory episode in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Which was written first, I wonder.

#5 The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds, 2009. (read in March)  * * *
Nicely written literary historical fiction, a series of vignettes really involving the staff and patients of a Victorian sanitarium. Good scenes and passages, but there's very little momentum driving the book forward. Fails to avoid landing on exactly the shocking dark secrets that you would expect from a novel treating of this time and setting.
I’ve since learned that this is a historical novel about the madness and incarceration of the famous British poet John Clare. What, you’ve never heard of John Clare? Oh good, than I feel better about not catching on.

#6 The Song Remains the Same, by Allison Winn Scotch, 2012. (begun in May) Abandoned
Adequately well-written soap opera. But life is short.
This was some sort of business about a woman who is one of only two survivors of a plane crash, and the other one is a famous but troubled movie star, and she has total amnesia, and must try to piece together her troubled relationships with her husband, mother, and sister. In retrospect, I probably should have jumped ship earlier than I did.

#7 Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell, 1998 (read in June)  * * * * *
I love this book.
This one was a real astonishment. Expecting nothing in particular, I wandered into a deeply intelligent science fiction novel that explores ecology, anthropology, history, ethics, and theology with wry wit, a full cast of well-drawn characters, plentiful violence, and a ripping story. I was stunned to discover this exciting new science fiction novel, and then more stunned to find that it’s fifteen years old; why haven’t I read this before? Why haven’t we all read it?

It turns out that it is a sequel, although it stood up just fine on its own. Mrs.5000, having noticed my stunned look, has eye-read both the first book (The Sparrow) and the second, and asked me the other night, “Why haven’t I read this before?”

A thoroughgoing win.

#8 Sea Change, by Karen White, 2012. (begun in June) Abandoned
I have no reason to think there's anything ~bad~ here, but it was emphatically not "my kind of thing," in that I was unable to pay attention to it.
Can’t win ‘em all.

Final Score

From my experiment of picking one audiobook each from eight shelves, my results were:
1 - Really Extraordinary novel
1 - Introduction into a rich seam of genre fiction.
4 - Books that did me no particular lasting good, but which all kept me company through a certain volume of road running or household chores
2 - Books that just sort of wasted my precious time, but only for as long as it took me to toss them overboard.
All in all, I’d have to say I fared pretty well. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime.


lamanyana said...

Those Mary Doria Russell books are towards the top of my favorite books that I've read in the last few years. I'm glad you stumbled across them.

Nichim said...

Yeah, lamanyana's mom sent us those books for Christmas and I remember thinking you might like them. I think they're the newest novels I've read in many years.

mrs.5000 said...

Wow, lamanyana's mom must be pretty awesome. These would be right at the top of my list of favorite science fiction.

Michael5000 said...

Can lamanyana's mom send us books?

pfly said...

Great, I've been looking for more sci-fi to read and had never heard of these...